A sex crime involves any form of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, illegal sexual behavior, or unlawful pornography.
Examples of what is deemed a sex crime in Virginia include:
- Abduction for corrupt purposes,
- Sexual battery
- Statutory rape (sex with a person under the age of consent),
- Solicitation of a minor,
- Possession of child porn, and
- Internet solicitation of a minor.
If a person is convicted of a sex crime in Virginia, they must register as a sex offender. Suppose another state convicted the offender for a crime requiring Virginia registration. In that case, the offender must register in Virginia within three days of entering the state if they establish a residence in, become employed in, or attend school in Virginia.
How Does Sex Offender Registration Work in Virginia?
Not all sex crimes require registration with the online registry. Most of the offenses that require registration in Virginia are violent sex crimes or were sex crimes perpetrated against a minor. Sex offenders who have been convicted and have perpetrated a crime that requires registration must register within three days on release from custody or within three days once a sentence is imposed.
Registration directs the offender to notify the state police and confirm their current physical and mailing addresses. The offender will also be directed to supply other identifying information such as driver’s license number and fingerprints. Additionally, in Virginia, offenders required to register must submit to being photographed by local law enforcement every two years.
All sex offenders required to register must continue to re-register every year until the duty to register is removed by court order. Nevertheless, anyone convicted of a sexually violent offense or a murder involving sexual abuse must continue to re-register for life.
What Are Sexual Offender Registries?
Sexual Offender Registries are indexes that states use to keep track of individuals convicted of specific sexual abuse offenses and crimes. States are directed to maintain the registries by federal regulation.
What Is Listed in Sexual Offender Registries?
Although different states use different criteria, generally, the list in Virginia includes individuals convicted of:
Registries generally list the names, addresses where the offender lives, and the crimes they perpetrated. Offenders who are homeless are often not penalized for failure to provide an address. However, parole boards generally demand some residency listing, even if the location is a “bridge behind Safeway store.”
Who Has Access to Sexual Offender Registries?
States must make the lists available to:
- The police
- The victims
- Individuals or groups that get approval from a judge
Some states have passed regulations making the lists available to the public, and in other states, the lists are available because all state records are open to the public. In some cases, states’ lists are available online.
What Are the Effects of Sexual Offender Registries?
These lists aim to provide families with information about persons who may be a danger to their children, based on those person’s past crimes.
Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and some convicted sexual offenders have challenged the state regulations on several foundations:
- Invasion of privacy: the indexes give the public sex offenders’ names and address
- Potential harassment: individuals in sex offenders’ communities may push them out
- Stigma: makes sexual offenders’ past crimes readily known to the public
However, most state courts have held that the public’s interest in defending the safety of its members outweighs any negative impact on sex offenders’ interests.
What Restrictions Do Registered Sexual Offenders Face?
Registered sex offenders who have been to prison have the same restraints as other people on parole. In addition, those on the registry are banned from living, working, or approaching areas kids may frequent:
- Churches and other places
Restrictions differ and may be updated from time to time.
Can I Be Taken Off the Registry?
If you were convicted of a sexual offense outside the state of Virginia, you could petition the court for a court order to be cleared from registering after three years. If convicted in Virginia, you can petition for relief after five years.
At that point, the court will have a hearing to decide whether or not the petition should be granted. Before the hearing, the court will request a comprehensive psychological assessment of the offender, which the court will use to decide whether or not to remove the offender from the registry.
Further, depending on whether or not you meet the required criteria, you may be able to close your criminal records, otherwise known as expungement. Eligibility for expungement varies from state to state. Still, if you only committed a minor sex crime that did not involve violence, such as indecent exposure, years ago, you might be able to get that record expunged. That prevents everyone other than law enforcement from glimpsing your past criminal history.
What Is Record Sealing or Expungement?
Whenever a person has a conviction on their record, it can cause many difficulties in getting employment, professional licensing, and the right to vote. Even if a criminal case doesn’t result in a formal conviction, the arrest record and the criminal prosecution can sometimes remain, causing similar problems.
In certain cases, many convictions and records of arrest can be sealed so that they are off-limits to all but law enforcement personnel. In other circumstances, the individual’s record can be subject to a process known as expungement, wherein a criminal file is removed from public records completely.
How Is Record Sealing Different from Expungement?
The major distinction between record sealing and expungement is that criminal records still “exist” if the records are sealed. The files and records are still there, but they just can’t be accessed by employers and other individuals. It is usually standard proceedings that a person’s juvenile criminal files are sealed once they turn 18 years old (though they can sometimes still be accessed via court order).
In comparison, expungement results in the actual deletion or erasing of criminal charges and arrest files as if they never happened. Specific charges may be more challenging to get expunged than others. For example, misdemeanor charges are usually more easily expunged than felony charges.
Laws concerning criminal record sealing and expungement can vary widely from state to state. Eligibility for such procedures can often depend on the type of crime involved.
Eligibility for Record Sealing or Expungement
Eligibility for record sealing varies from state to state, but typically, the procedure is as follows:
- Apply for record sealing in writing with the court where the conviction happened
- The initial sentence must have been served by the offender
- The individual is not facing any new charges
- The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that probation conditions have been fulfilled
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you have been charged with a crime, you must seek legal help immediately. An experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney will be able to defend you in court and will work hard to get you a not guilty verdict.
If you have already been convicted and have served your time for a minor sex crime and no longer wish to be listed as a sex offender, you should see if you are eligible to petition for removal from the registry. Further, you should go to an expungement attorney to start the process of sealing your criminal record.